Author: Annelies Verbeke
Publisher: World Editions
Publish Date: August 8, 2016
From Goodreads.com: “Alphonse, funny, observant and imaginative, is a former musician who has left Brussels with his girlfriend Cat to live near her parents in the buttoned-up rural district of Westhoek. It has open fields, wide, low skies, more World War I graves than almost anywhere in Europe—and one of the highest suicide rates in the western world. Alphonse starts a new life as a handyman. As he paints and decorates the interior of people's homes, he gets to know their complex emotional lives—their affairs, family disturbances, messy divorces, everyday cruelties, and unexpected dreams. But when he, Cat and a client help a group of Afghans and Syrians at a makeshift refugee camp, he learns that not all locals appreciate their work.”
My Two Cents:
This is my second review for Boekenweek 2019! “Thirty Days” is the story of Alphonse, a ex-pat navigating life in Belgium. He is married to Cat, a worldly daughter of diplomats. Alphonse wants to assimilate to his new home but the people around them don’t make it easy. He becomes a handyman and plays witness to some of the intimate moments of his neighbors. While he is very understanding of them, they view him as almost a curiosity. When he and Cat stand up for what they believe in, they ruffle feathers but Alphonse knows the cost of staying quiet comes at much too great a cost.
Our main character, Alphonse, is great. I really enjoyed following him throughout this book. He has a good heart and a tough back story. I appreciated how the author slowly unfolded all the details of his life throughout the book. I also liked Cat a lot. She and Alphonse make a great pair. Some of the other characters in the book are definitely a bit different and provide a great juxtaposition between themselves and Alphonse and Cat.
With all that is going on in the world that weighs so heavily on all of us, this was a perfect book to read right now. Alphonse and Cat realize that they need to do something in order to take care of others. Many of the other characters in the book seem to be concerned about their own perceived problems rather than the plight of others.
I enjoyed the writing of the book and know that these characters will stick with me for a long time to come!